Congrats Grads: Naylor Commentary

In Congratulations Graduates, Doc Kingston did a nice job putting forth some important reminders for young (and old) sport psychology students and professionals.  Continuing on the theme on advice for the journey in applied sport psych, I thought I’d throw out an analogy:

If you want to play in the majors, get ready to journey through the minors.

It is quite hubristic that many sport psych professionals believe because they have a post-graduate degree they are ready to work and should be accepted at the highest levels of sport.  Why should the sport psych professional have the luxury of travelling a different path than big league players and coaches?  “Toiling” in the minors is part of the path towards athletic success, the sport psych professional should expect and embrace a similar route.  Here are a few thoughts that take this analogy a bit further:

  • Sport is not glamorous.  Be ready for smelly locker rooms, foul language, long bus rides, a lack of luxury, and at times a lack of respect.  The journey to the big leagues in all sports takes place in remote destinations that many could argue are the armpits of the world.  This is where sport psych and player development happens.
  • A doctoral degree does not mean you “deserve” X amount of dollars in your paycheck.  Look at the paycheck of a minor league coach.  Look at the paycheck of a minor league player.  They are “essential” pieces of the sporting landscape.  Why does a “luxury” commodity such as sport psych automatically get paid double, triple, or more than those striving in the trenches on a daily basis?  Ultimately, the quality of your work, the depth of your applied experiences, and the quality of the relationships you build determine your paycheck.
  • The process matters, but at the end of the day, results speak volumes.  It is not the most, classy move to post testimonials and is unethical to publicly brag about specific clients with whom you work.  Nonetheless the coaches, organizations, and players with whom you will work will sing praises about your services if results show up on the playing field.  Taking credit for Ws and Ls is inappropriate, but making the outcomes of the work you do tangible to the eye and tangible to the mind will help you move up the prospect list.
  • Love who you are working with today, there is no guarantee about who you will work with tomorrow.  Not all minor leaguers make it to the big show.  That’s o.k.  Similarly, not all (very few) sport psych professionals find substantial work at the highest levels of sport.  Working with the struggling, adolescent athlete is as noble a job as working for the over-paid superstar (it is probably more noble).  If the goal is to work in professional sports, there are easier routes than sport psychology… try sports marketing, sales, or any other administrative job.  In sport psych, as CSN&Y sang, “Love the one your with.”

Success in applied sport psych requires readiness for “minor league” opportunities and challenges.  Ego is a funny thing… it can lead a sport psych person to forget about the reality of those with whom he works and feel a certain sense of professional entitlement.  The minor leagues are where the seeds of great accomplishments are sown.  This rings true for all trying to master their craft and find success at the highest levels.  Beyond checking one’s ego at the door, remember also that a fragile ego does not get one far in this field.  To finish with the analogy for now remember:

If you are playing in the majors… be ready for the occasional demotion to the minors… it’s just part of the game.

Enjoy your journey.

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